Day 16: A History of My 26" Mountain Bikes

(I'm leaving soon for a short road trip with my brother. I headed out for a token ride in the pre-dawn chill, but it was so quiet and pleasant to be out--event at 25 degrees--that I took a longer loop through the nature preserve. I stopped to enjoy the sight of the full moon reflecting on a misty pond. I may have to do more dawn patrol rides)


Regular reader(s) of my blog have probably already seen the history of my full suspension bikes, hardtail 29ers, and road/cross bikes. What, they've probably been wondering during sleepless nights, about the old school mountain bikes? Today we can allow them to rest easy.

My first mountain bike was a 1990 Giant Rincon, purchased as I graduated high school, from Bob's Bikes, in Portland, Oregon:

(not my bike pictured). I just bought it for riding around campus, so Bob's sized me up on a 23" frame. However, shortly thereafter, I started mountain biking with my friend Jason Stuart (who, BTW, had an envy worthy Bridgestone MB-1, and BTW, still rides it), and decided I wanted a bit more clearance. A month later, I sold it to get something else. Can you tell where this all started?

The Giant Giant's replacement was the creaky Nishiki:

(also not my bike pictured, I ordered white but got black with very 90s white spiderwebs, in a 21" size). I remember poring through the catalog, actually believing all the ad copy about the benefits of wishbone seatstays and straight forks. Of course, I finally just had a 30 pound rigid bike with awful first generation STI components. But I had fun with it, aside from what turned out to be a creaky seatpost.

I kept the Nishiki for an entire year, until I picked up a used Specialized Stumpjumper. I remember walking two miles to the seller's house, since I couldn't ride two bikes back and didn't know anyone with a car. It was maybe a '91 model, black with my first suspension:

Which worked so well that I bought a rigid Ritchey Logic fork that summer.

That Stumpjumper lasted until the summer between my junior and senior years, when I found a nicer Stump on closeout at Gregg's Greenlake. $1300, marked down to just $600, how could I resist?

(yep, my bike shown now) Full Suntour XC-Pro, Microdrive with greaseguard, it was a beautiful machine. It weighed right around 25.5 pounds, light for the time but somehow considered pretty heavy now. I guess we were tougher then. I rode Stumpy for probably 10 years before selling it. Really, I probably could have used the next size up from the 20.5" size I had...

I went on a brief titanium fling with a Habanero (shown with current owner Charles):

$1000 for a Chinese ti frame was a deal then, now you can get a custom ChiTi frame delivered to your door for that much.

I finally realized my MB-1 envy when I got a used '94 MB-1:

It was nice for the time, but too small. But note my Allsop stem!

I knew pretty much everything about bikes by that point, so while I debated between a Gunnar and a Voodoo, I finally applied all my know-how and got a Curtlo custom for not much more outlay:

Of course, once I got it, I immediately got bitten hard by the single speed bug, and it spent several years with a chain tensioner band-aid on it. As a historical note, I captured the inaugural Ohio Single Speed State Championship (B division) with this frame.

A long period of 29ers, and then...

I picked up a all original '91 MB-2, 55cm, probably my correct size:

Turns out, Billy Joel was right: the good ol' days weren't always good. The butt up, head down position just didn't appeal anymore after riding more modern bikes. And whoever thought toe clips on mountain bikes were a good idea?

I had an idea that a 69er might be the best of both worlds: short in the back for easy lifting of the front wheel, and a big wheel in the front to tackle obstacles and provide steering stability. I decided to try this theory with a Trek frame I picked up cheap (like, $40 cheap) on ebay:

It had a lot that appealed to me: made in the US, rim brakes or disc, rack mounts, etc. But it was designed for an 80mm 26" sus fork, and my big wheel choppered out the front too much for good handling. It also had all the ride suppleness of a softball bat.

I wasn't ready to give up on the idea of a 69er, though, trying it later with a Voodoo Bizango:

It was designed for a longer fork, so it worked much better with the big front wheel. It was also able to fit 650B wheels. Why did I sell it then? I'm not sure, and I wouldn't mind having it right now.

I picked up a Surly Troll at a swap meet in this condition:

I liked the frame, even though it was quite stiff, and ran it both as a 26er and a 650B. I finally sold the frameset, for about what I paid for the whole package, but I still use the Bontrager Scandium (!) wheels off it on my FSR (I sold the brakes and recently the tires as well) Probably one of my best deals, money wise.

Which brings us to the Breezer, which I've written about recently:

Another 69er attempt, which again didn't work out as well as I'd hoped. It's also just too small for me, so it will be for sale soon. I still think the 69er idea has merit, if I can just find the right frame/fork combination. My latest idea is to find another Voodoo, a Soma Analog, or maybe a Surly 1x1, pair it with the fork from a Singular Gryphon (relatively short at 445mm and 55mm offset to quicken up the handling), and add a Knard up front and a Dirt Wizard in the rear. 69er+! At least I wouldn't see myself coming and going out on the trail.


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